AI: Law and Policy

The WhiteHouse announced a series a workshops on AI and its impact to law and policy near the beginning of this month, and the UW School of Law hosted one of those workshops. It was open to the public with registration – so I went. I was looking forward to hear some voices and opinions that I otherwise wouldn’t.

Ed Felton kicked it off, but I think the highlights from Oren Etzioni were more targeted and insightful. The media hype/mob think has this kind of conversation turned on its head. Real issues and concerns need to be discussed, but a lot of the discourse in this space is misdirected and distracting from some of the nearer term core issues. Through his presentation, Oren reiterated that while there are significant things to talk about in this space, the threat of the immediate rise of general artificial intelligence (machines that think like a person) are still a considerable ways off, and the issues at hand that need to be discussed are specifically related to how humans are using existing “narrow” AI to solve problems, capture information, and train systems.

My own personal highlight from this workshop was the second session: a panel which included Kate Crawford and Jack Balkin, folks I didn’t know much about.

The framing and examples that Jack cited during the conversation were new (to me?) and fascinating ideas about how to approach the problems and issues associated with use of this technology. This conversation focused on “the people and companies using AI systems”, and in particular the value and obligations that we should consider when using and/or providing an AI service.

One of his core points was that this model already exists within US Law, and it’s the mechanism for professions and the implied fiduciary duties that exist there – duties of faith, trustworthiness, and appropriate behavior. He put it succinctly in a beautiful way “These guys shouldn’t screw you over”.

I’m sure I won’t do any summary here justice, but fortunately you can make your own opinions. The workshop/presentations were recorded and are available on YouTube: The panel with Jack and Kate starts at 1:15 into that clip and runs about an hour.

If you’re interested in more traditional news coverage about this whole setup, Geekwire has some news coverage of the event as well.


Published by heckj

Developer, author, and life-long student. Writes online at

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